Tory leader David Cameron yesterday said he would seek to bring the north of Ireland into what he called the “mainstream of UK politics”.
He said the Conservatives would continue to “give our fullest support to the police and other agencies in their efforts to combat the threat from dissident republican and other terrorist organisations”.
Mr Cameron’s plans for the north of Ireland were revealed as he launched his party’s 120-page election manifesto, entitled ‘Invitation To Join The Government of Britain’, in London.
The Conservative leader said his party planned a “radical decentralisation of power” and would “work closely” with the Northern Ireland Assembly.
“We are a unionist party and we will not put the union at risk. But we support devolution and are committed to making it work,” he said.
“The Conservative Party is passionate about the union and we will never do anything to put it at risk.
“And, because of the new political force we have created with the Ulster Unionists, we are proud that at the next election we will be the only party fielding candidates in every part of the UK.”
Mr Cameron’s manifesto pledge was apparent published before his party withdrew its candidate in Fermanagh/South Tyrone in favour of a pan-unionist nominee.
DUP Minister Arlene Foster, having read Cameron’s manifesto, noted: “The 2005 manifesto had a grand total of 79 words” on the North.
“This measly offering contains 87, so Reg has wrecked his own party for a paltry eight extra words.”
However, there was embarrassment for the DUP when it produced a poster featuring a woman who said she wanted “an MP who did not answer to the Tories and so she was voting DUP”.
The unionist discovered the picture had been bought online from a stock photo firm and bought another image of the model.
She is on their spoof poster telling voters she has had a change of heart and will be voting for UCUNF.
The DUP’s said the UCUNF re-hashed poster had generated extra publicity for his party.
“UCUNF campaign team can change a poster but they can’t change the reality that the UUP has sold itself to the Tories. As one former UUP Westminster candidate said of the Tories ‘they pay the bills and call the shots’. That’s the reality Photoshop can’t change.”
In a historic first, the leaders of the three main British political parties -- Gordon Brown of the Labour Party, David Cameron of the Conservative Party, and David Clegg of the Liberal Demorats -- are taking part in a three-way televised political debate tonight.
The debate is the first of three 90-minute televised debates, a new experiment in British parliamentary democracy.
Neither the situation in the north of Ireland nor the war in Afghanistan featured in the debate, which ranged over the Westminster expenses scandal, immigration, police numbers, military spending, and Britain’s National Health Service.
Recent polls put Labour’s national support on average at 31%, with the Tories at 36% and the Liberal Democrats at 21%.
However, in an instant opinion poll released tonight following the debate, the Liberal Democrats support had jumped to 27%, the Conservatives’ support had declined marginally to 41%, while Labour had increased marginally to 32%.
Of viewers who watched the debate, just 28% said that Cameron won the debate, versus 36% each for Brown and Clegg, according to Sky News.